"He was a lot of fun, smart, and very adventurous and I think that's how he went on to become a SEAL. Adventure, and because it was time to think about college and Jonas knew he wasn't ready for college," explains Jonas's older sister Kim Kelsall Dossette. "He just didn't want to sit behind a desk all day long in college."
His pursuit of excellence found him to be one of a handful from his class to successfully complete SEAL's training to become part of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, and his colleagues say Navy Lt. Commander Jonas Kelsall was a natural leader always at the front of the pack.
Jonas told his father, John Kelsall, that should anything ever happened to him they were to remember he was "doing what he loved, with the guys he loved doing it with, and he wouldn't have wanted to be doing anything else."
Jonas was one of a group of SEALS killed when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down on August 6, 2011, in Wardak Province, Afghanistan. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
"Jonas always talked about ways to give back; it was a pretty big focus of his. Around the time of his death, there were a lot of stories in the news about the bleak employment picture for veterans," his sister recalls. "That was the beginning of The Jonas Project."
John Kelsall, his wife Teri, and Jonas only sibling Kim channeled their grief and loss to create an opportunity to honor Jonas life through the development of a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the employment needs of veterans.
The Jonas Project matches volunteer mentors and subject area experts to work with veteran entrepreneurs so they can start their businesses, and subsequently provide jobs for others. The mentor agrees to guide the veteran for two years through the business start-up process and beyond.
"We're doing what we can to diminish the business-startup-failure rate for our veterans who want to start their own businesses," explains Kelsall Dossette. "Our mentors have already faced the business startup obstacles and succeeded. They work with them to prepare business and development plans that address the uncertainties of running a business."
The Jonas Project is not trying to recreate services that already exist according to Kelsall Dossette.
"There are a lot of good resources out there for entrepreneurs, and we like to refer out or partner with those organizations as well. But what's really unique about The Jonas Project is we work with them on their business plans because veterans need to know what they're up against. We've created a business plan obstacle course of sorts, so they have to tackle the nitty gritty of business planning."
So what would Jonas think about The Jonas Project?
"We've talked and joked about that as a family," says Kelsall Dossette. "Jonas was a private person so he'd probably be embarrassed we've got his name and picture splashed on a website, but, I think he'd be very excited about the work we're doing to support veterans. It wasn't until he died that we started to realize what a positive impact Jonas had on other people's lives, and we saw how much other people were doing in his honor. That's the takeaway in all this. Your life is your legacy, and Jonas inspired a lot of people to do positive things."
Indeed Lt. Commander Jonas Kelsall will be remembered and honored for his inspiration and sacrifice in service to our nation through the work of The Jonas Project and more.
Jonas name was recently said out loud, and a replica dog tag bearing his name was placed on a balsam fir tree during the Wreaths Across America Stem to Stone Tree Tagging Event. Every three years tips will be harvested from that very tree to make veterans remembrance wreaths placed on the headstones of our fallen service men and women on National Wreaths Across America Day.